Entropy ... Everywhere

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

If you want to brush up on entropy, you can read about it here. That´s the article I read that started me thinking about, and seeing, entropy … everywhere. If you don´t want to read that article (you should, you know) the very simple idea is that things, on average, run towards chaos and destruction … unless some outside force is applied. For example, your cup of hot morning beverage gets cold. The heat releases to where it isn´t hot. Never, ever, will your steaming hot cup of morning stay hot, nor get hot…unless you do something.

Let´s unpack that a moment with a focus on a classroom. You start the year. You get to know each other, you build community, you build guidelines or rules with your students. You play some team building games. And then, you stop. You stop, probably, because the immense pressure of CURRICULUM and COVERAGE start to press down upon you. Now, there is a chance, a very small one, that through random occurrence the community that you built in the early part of the year will continue to grow and blossom. However, the overwhelming percentage of random events favors chaos and destruction. When that starts to happen, you then have to “apply force” by recommitting to getting to know each other, or to reconvene your long lost community circle to figure out if “this is who we want to be.”

I was creating a mini-cast (podcast under 15 minutes.. I may have invented the term, I may not have. I haven´t Googled it in any case) with a colleague, Jesse Howe. Our focus was labels. He mentioned that labels and diagnoses, at least in the American Public School System, were created because people needed help and they were not getting it. A good thing, right? However, since inception, entropy has set in. Now we dole out labels will-nilly in the hopes that it might help teachers know their kids so they can help them. However, if you know anything about Roesenthal´s rats, labels can be very dangerous. If they lower teacher expectations, good luck kid.

The bottom line in all of this is: if we want to maintain or improve anything, we must WORK. We must put forth EFFORT. And thinking of effort, my thoughts on what a teacher´s best ROI (return on investment) are for another day.

Too Much of a Good Thing is Still Too Much

Photo by  Romain Vignes  on  Unsplash

Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

Our brain hasn´t changed much over the past 200,000 years. Our lives sure have though. Every brain needs the following things, every day, to be healthy. Focus time, down time, play time (spontaneous, creative, novel), physical time, connection time (with people or nature, technology DOES NOT count), time-in (thinking about our thoughts, feelings, etc), and sleep. Thinking about our past, these things were just a natural part of life. We didn´t have to “make time” to do any of them. Now we do. Why?

Just like our body and brain developed ways to make us eat as many sugars and fats as we could,I am guessing they it did the same with focus time. If you look at all the activities that are bad for us, and that we become addicted to, they all are some sort of focused activity. Social media, YouTube, Netflix, Television, video games. All of them are focused activities.

Our brain is only capable of so much focus in any given time period. It´s something like 25 minutes at a time (10 for kiddos less than 12), and somewhere between 2-4 hours in one day. Think about that. 2-4 hours in one day. How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Your children? Your students? Are we robbing ourselves of any attempt to focus on things that truly matter?

If you think about an average child now, how much time do you think they spend doing focused activity on an average day? You have the school day: depending on the school, a student is probably being asked to focus for AT LEAST 4 hours. That same student goes home. How many focused activities are they doing there? Down time? Time-in? Sleep? How much actual play?

I played a ton. I did imaginary play all the way through High School. I think maybe … maybe .. 3 of my 22 students do any sort of imaginative play at this point. I teach 5th grade. Think about that. We live in a world that our brains are not made for. This world has evolved systems that make us addicted to them (most likely accidentally!!). We have accidentally addicted our children to technology. To their utmost determent.

Why has this happened? Thoughts on that next time.

The Levels of Growth Mindset

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I was sitting in a meeting today when the facilitator showed an image. Fixed vs. Growth Mindset. If you haven´t heard of it, Carol Dweck is the guru. So watch her Ted Talk or read her book (and probably move out from that rock you have been living under :) )

This idea has been in education for a while, and I think a lot of people have bought into it. I also think there are different levels (like anything).  As an educator, you can have a fixed or growth mindset about your students (some vs. all). You can have a fixed or growth mindset about yourself (some things vs. all things). There is one other area of mindset that I wonder about. Your thoughts about other adults...

When you look at some other human-- another teacher, an athlete-- anyone who can do something better than you. Are you willing to admit, out loud, that they have worked harder than you have? Or do you say, they were lucky? Or that´s just who they are? At this point in my life, when I see someone do something well, I now assume that they have put the required work in to do so. They may not have put it into the specific skill I saw-- maybe they worked a lot on something connected to it-- that made the acquisition and application of the skill that much "easier" than for me or for others.

Maybe you´ve thought someone was just "Techy". (or "artsy", or "sporty" ... any of the Spice Girls) Well, you might be relegating 30 years of playing around with technology (or art, or sport, or spice), experimenting with it, having fun with it, learning about it to your one word description. So, like I asked before, are you willing to acknowledge someone outworking you? If you are, than I think that means you are pushing the boundaries of what it means to have a growth mindset.